Arlington Requests Many Four-Day Weeks in 2007

Arlington Park has requested its customary racing dates for 2007, but would like to run only four days a week for almost three months.

A list of dates requests released July 31 by the Illinois Racing Board shows Arlington, owned by Churchill Downs Inc., is seeking 100 dates from May 4-Sept. 30. The track wants to offer four days a week of racing (Thursday through Sunday) from May 4-June 19, and Sept. 1-30. The track would race five days a week (Wednesdays added) from June 20-Aug. 31.

Hawthorne Race Course has requested 131 dates: Jan. 1-2; Feb. 23-May 6; and Sept. 14-Dec. 31. Racing would be held five days a week (Wednesday through Sunday). The late-September dates overlap with those at Arlington.

The Feb. 23-May 6 dates have been run at Hawthorne but under the auspices of the National Jockey Club, which used to race at defunct Sportsman's Park. The NJC is experiencing financial problems, so its fate is up in the air.

Fairmount Park in southern Illinois requested 150 days of Thoroughbred racing but wasn't specific; it would hold racing sometime between Jan. 1-Dec. 31.

The IRB will hold a hearing on the dates in September. On the Standardbred side, there again is a potential conflict between Hawthorne and the group that operates Balmoral Park and Maywood Park. All three tracks have requested dates from June 3-Aug. 31.

In other business, the IRB said it would retain a second consultant to analyze the dirt surface at Arlington, where about 20 horses have broken down during the current meet. Two consultants already have checked the track and reported it was safe.

The racing board, however, said it learned "recommendations for alterations to the track surface and track maintenance procedures were communicated by (consultant Greg Coon) in writing directly to track management but not made a part of his original report. The board additionally learned that Mr. Coon had met with track management after his inspection but before drafting his report and submitting it to the board."

IRB executive director Marc Laino in a release said the board is "intent upon insuring the safety of horses and jockeys at Arlington Park. While the additional recommendations made by Mr. Coon may well not reflect upon the safety of the track, we need independent verification of that fact, which we do not presently have."

The IRB said it's investigating whether any rules were violated in connection with discussion between Coon and Arlington officials.